Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy birthday Rene!

So today I'm teaching class and my students have checked out laptops for the period. They're finishing up a PowerPoint and poster for a civil rights project due next week.

Anyhow, in the middle of the class I hear from the other side of the room "What is this?" and "Maybe 'it's raining men' or something." I don't have any idea what they're talking about, so I ask. "It's this thing on Google today -- what is it?" one asked. Oh, it must be one of those special Google logos, I thought, trying in vain to think what November 21 must be the anniversary of. As it turns out, this is the logo they saw:


"Magritte!" I shouted.

"What?" came a chorus. I think they thought I'd lost my mind.

So I clicked the logo and found out that Google is honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rene Magritte, who has always been one of my favorite painters of all time. I used to have his posters in my room at Jordan and I made a mental vow to get more for the new classroom.

Anyhow, the real delight came in spending the next 15-20 minutes with these students completely off-task and enthralled as we clicked image after image to see more of Magritte's work. Each time I tried to explain ("it's a picture of a pipe, not a real pipe" or "see how the horse appears to be in front of and behind the trees at the same time?") and you would see these amazing looks come over their faces as they "got" it. I don't think these students (who are very bright) had ever seen this kind of art before and this inadvertent introduction to it was priceless. So thanks, Google, and happy birthday Rene Magritte!

Here are some of my favorite works:


3 comments:

phil said...

I've always loved the painting in the window thing, and have enjoyed seeing it riffed on in other paintings and other media since then.

I've also wondered where/whether Magritte first saw the idea elsewhere. It seems like the kind of thing that must have been done by many, without fame, before he got around to doing it so well and iconically.

allison said...

i remember seeing the one with the horse ages ago (because i loved anything with a horse on it back then)...i spent hours staring at it tracing the outlines of the tree and the horse with my fingers trying to figure out how he did that. but it wasn't until i read your blog post that i realized what the google logo was for. nifty!

ellen dagenhart said...

A mind when stretched never resumes quite the same shape. Bravo to you as an educator.